NAPPANEE, Ind. (WNDU) - NorthWood head baseball coach AJ Risedorph is in his second year coaching the Panthers. For his first job as head coach, he wanted to change the culture of the program.
"One thing that I wanted to instill in these guys is what they can give back to the community," Risedorph said. "Playing for something bigger than baseball."
For the second straight season, NorthWood's mission remains the same: to strike out cancer.
"I think for them it's a mission to know they are playing for something bigger than themselves," Risedorph said.
NorthWood teamed up with the Jason Motte foundation to raise money for every strike out and base hit recorded during the 2019 season. And for some of the Panthers, cancer hits close to home.
NorthWood sophomore pitcher Jacob Raasch's mother was diagnosed with melanoma and for Panthers designated hitter Jack Wysong, both his grandmother and his mom were diagnosed with Stage 1 Breast Cancer.
"Things go through your head like, it's Stage 1 but still, what if I lose my mom," Wysong said. "What if I lose my grandma? That kind of stuff takes a toll."
But the NorthWood community doesn't want that toll to get the Panthers down.
"It meant a lot to me because I know I have a family here at NorthWood who really cares about me," Raasch said. "They really come around to everyone who really is struggling with cancer and help us out and encourage us."
That encouragement means a lot for the team to help stop this deadly disease.
"Something coach likes to say a lot is next pitch, next play," Wysong said. "That's how I'm trying to think of my life as well. Now that my grandma and mom have both beat it, their next thing is going to be to continue to beat it and not let it reoccur. So when I step on the field, I'm thinking about them, and playing for them and glad they are still here with us."
Coach Risedorph knows the success of his program isn't determined by the efforts inside the lines but how the team can create a positive impact in the community.
"We get measured as coaches between wins and losses," Risedorph said. "For these guys after the season, when they have time to reflect, and they see the total amount of money they were able to contribute and raise, I think that's the bigger picture for them."
NorthWood has raised over $4,000 partnering with the Jason Motte Foundations to strike out cancer this season.
There is still time to donate. The Panthers are accepting donations through June. All proceeds go directly to the Jason Motte Foundation.